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Before and After: Stories from New York (Vol. 1) (Mr. Beller's Neighborhood) Paperback – February 17, 2002
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
Michael Cunningham, Luc Sante and Jeanette Winterson take their place alongside newcomers Ariele Fierman and Said Shirazi in this collection of new reportage from high-watt literary types and up-and-comers. In the first half, completed just before September 11, Beller (The Sleep-Over Artist) gathers pieces that chronicle everything from kissing a cabdriver in the early hours of New Year's Day or joining a Monday night pool league to a group of poems written by people staying up all night for Chekhov tickets. The feel is definitively late '90s, and the city seems full of promise, romance and cash. The second half is devoted to essays about the attacks: a meditation on the eerie prescience of Don DeLillo's Underworld book jacket (and his oeuvre), Phillip Lopate's brief history of the towers and many first-person testimonials. Nifty graphics introduce each piece by zeroing in on the city neighborhood whence the report issues. While this is at least partly an instant book, the quality of the pieces is consistently high, and they feel authentic throughout. (Feb. 15)Forecast: Beller's high literary journalistic profile he edits Open City in addition to frequent writing for glossies and continued New York interest should convert to brisk sales. Look for Beller to begin doing talk shows as the book becomes the best-available-option for those wanting book-length stylized New York reportage, and for correspondingly increased traffic at www.mrbellersneighborhood.com, where many of the pieces originally appeared.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Brief and memorable epitomes of the urban encountera transporting collection. -- Kirkus Reviews
Brief and memorable epitomes of the urban encounter: a transporting collection. -- Kirkus Reviews
It's a heartbreaker of a book. -- Flakmag.com
It's hard to imagine a more appropriate or more moving collection of voices. -- San Francisco Chronicle
The essays are gorgeous, alternately sad and funny...(a) richly human collection -- Portland Mercury
The quality of these pieces is consistently high, and they feel authentic throughout. -- Publishers Weekly, 21 January 2002
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From a public perspective, this book is one of many examples of the rampant opportunism that followed the attacks. Most of the post-9/11 opportunism was political and included legislation that provided yet more tax cuts for the wealthy, and a catastrophically expensive missile defense program that has never worked. It was also apparent, in the culture industry, as evidenced by the eruption of countless obnoxious benefits, and the verbiage of irrelevant news personalities who had suddenly come to believe that their bland polemics meant something.
From a private perspective, this book beautifully exemplifies the rapid retreat that most of us made from any sustained analysis of what made 9/11 possible. For about 48 hours after the attacks, we Americans appeared to have woken up from the slumber of mass consumption and entitlement, and actually begun to take a good hard look at how the rest of the world viewed us and how are government actually works. But old habits die hard, and in the case of 9/11 they arose from the grave in a matter of days.
"New York Before and After" is a marvelous confluence of both these phenomena. Firstly, some writers made up for in ambition what they lacked in talent and used 9/11 to pump stories from their Web site into publication. A few of these stories are good and most of them are not. Without the collapse of the World Trade Center, it is doubtful they would have been published. Secondly, these writers both performed and perpetuated the collective national sin of focusing on the drama while avoiding any meaningful examination of events. Some of the writers in this collection are smart enough and talented enough to have produced a meaningful and relevant examination of events, but of course that was not the purpose of this book. Publication and the perpetuation of collective self-pity were both its purpose and result.
I was mainly interested in reading the 9/11/01 accounts and wasn't even sure if I would be interested in the "Before" section. But I was pleasantly surprised. The stories are a collection of everything from the humorous to the bittersweet to the ugly. The wide variety of characters span from every walk of New York life. Some people I felt could have been written by my best friends in New York. Some stories I could relate to through my own experiences.
The "After" section was grippingly real and heartbreaking. There is one story of a man who survived escaping from the Twin Towers, which is so detailed that I felt as if I was reliving the day as I read it, tears coming to my eyes. This section is also varied, getting different perspectives on what happened and how to deal with the aftermath. I work four blocks away from Ground Zero. There is rarely a day when 9/11 does not come into my thoughts. It is a comfort to read these stories and know that New Yorkers are all suffering in their own ways.
The stories are drawn largely from Tom Beller's excellent literary website, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. Some of the stories are by professional writers, others are not. So naturally the writing styles and quality differ from story to story. Over all, the qualty is very good indeed.
The book is divided into two parts, part one has stories written before 9/11. The stories here are from people who are proud to live in and be a part of the city. The people who write and appear in these stories are not the cold unfeeling people that New Yorkers supposedly are. They are very warm, flesh and blood people, all too human, even in their occasional flashes of arrogance.
The second part is made up of stories that take place on 9/11 and after. The stories reflect people who are hurting, who have witnessed horrible things, who are trying to cope and understand what has happened to them and their city. But these people are still proud to be New Yorkers, even in the depth of their agony.
This is a small book, but the stories in it are great indeed.